Emergency Vaccine Clinics

Program Overview

We provide in-field vaccination clinics, licensed by the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA), in response to canine distemper outbreaks. Over a weekend, volunteers go door to door and up to 300 dogs have been vaccinated.

What is Canine Distemper?

Canine Distemper is a highly contagious and deadly virus that impacts several body systems, including the gastrointestinal, respiratory, spinal cord and brain. There is no cure, only symptomatic treatment and it can be prevented with vaccination.

Common symptoms may include:

  • No symptoms
  • High fever
  • Labored breathing, coughing
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, salivation
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Neurological, twitching, circling, seizures
  • Abnormal behaviour, sensitivity to light or touch
  • Thickened footpads

Death may result 2-5 weeks after the initial infection. Dogs that survive and fully recover do not spread or carry the virus. However, survivors may show the following lasting signs:

  • A small tic, twitch or jaw chatter
  • Thickened footpads or nose
  • Damage to the enamel of the teeth (puppies)
  • Seizures

How does Canine Distemper spread?

  1. Airborne transmission – when an infected dog or other animal coughs or sneezes. In the event they can not be isolated they need to be housed at least 6 ft from other dogs to prevent airborne transmission. 
  2. Sharing of contaminated objects – water and food bowls as well as toys, blankets, and bedding can spread the virus from dog to dog. 
  3. Direct contact with infected dogs or other animals – if a dog ingests or inhales the infected saliva, mucus, urine, or blood of an infected dog or wild animal (foxes, wolves, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, mink, weasels, martin, fisher, otters, badgers, wolverines, and ferrets).
  4. Mother to offspring – pregnant mothers are able to spread the virus to their unborn puppies through the placenta.

How long does canine distemper virus survive in the environment?

  1. Object exposure – (people, crates, vehicles) the virus will typically die in minutes to a couple of hours, faster in dry warm conditions, slower in cold wet conditions. It is not durable and can be easily killed with most veterinary cleaners.
  2. Organic material – (deceased animals, feces) the virus typically can survive 2-4 weeks, but if frozen and protected from sunlight 1 year +.

What should I do if I think my dog has distemper?

Please isolate your dog from other dogs, and call your veterinary hospital. If you need further assistance please call a Task Force Team member at 403-797-3647